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Elmont residents protest proposed Cosmos stadium

Community organizer Tammie Williams, of the Parkhurst Civic

Community organizer Tammie Williams, of the Parkhurst Civic Association in Elmont, gathers demonstrators on Huntley Street in Elmont on Saturday, June 16, 2016, to protest a proposed soccer stadium. Credit: Steven Sunshine

More than 20 people rallied near Belmont Park on Saturday morning to protest a proposed 25,000-seat stadium for the New York Cosmos soccer team.

Protesters carried signs with a slash mark through a soccer ball and with such slogans as “Elmont Doesn’t Need a Stadium.” They said they were worried about increased traffic and crime and that the stadium would bring few benefits for residents.

The Cosmos proposal is one of four that the Empire State Development Corporation is considering for state-owned land off Hempstead Turnpike east of Cross Island Parkway.

In addition to the stadium, the team is proposing stores, nine restaurants, a 175-room hotel, a 1.2-acre park, a grocery store and a movie theater. The Cosmos also are promising a $3 million fund for a community center and sports fields, a team spokeswoman said Saturday in an email.

Three competing proposals each call for retail and recreation development.

Tammie Williams, a community organizer with the Parkhurst Civic Association in Elmont who helped coordinate Saturday’s rally, said a huge soccer stadium is a poor fit for a residential neighborhood. Homes are directly east of the proposed site.

“It’s a very quiet side of town,” Williams said. “People want to keep it that way. Putting a 25,000-seat soccer stadium in front of people’s homes is just crazy.”

Nassau County Legislator Carrié Solages (D-Elmont) told protesters that the stadium would completely transform the surrounding area.

“If a 25,000-seat stadium were to be constructed, it would completely overshadow this community and decimate their quality of life,” he said.

Sheila Brown, 55, who lives across the street from the site, hadn’t heard of the stadium proposal until a reporter told her about it Saturday.

She called the idea of a large stadium “ridiculous,” saying traffic already is unbearable when there is racing at Belmont Park.

“When there are things at Belmont Park, you can’t get to your home for hours on end,” she said.

Williams said residents aren’t opposed to development on the site. But she called for a mix of walkable stores and restaurants, along with apartments or condominiums north of the turnpike — adjoining the Long Island Rail Road station — that would appeal to young professionals and older empty-nesters.

She said Empire State, the state’s main economic development agency, should issue new requests for proposals that include housing.

Cosmos chief operating Officer Erik Stover said in a statement that “it’s disappointing that this process has dragged on so long, allowing individuals to misinform the community while the Elmont region continues to struggle.”

The Cosmos first submitted a bid in February 2013.

Stover said that the development, which would be funded entirely with private money, would generate taxes for the state and county and stimulate investment in the area.

John Durso, president of the Long Island Federation of Labor, said by phone Friday the federation supports the Cosmos proposal because it is “an excellent opportunity to put people to work and revitalize the area.”

The Cosmos organization estimates the project would create 500 construction-related and 3,000 permanent jobs.

A rally in support of the project in May attracted more than 150 union members and others to Belmont Park.

The team, of the North American Soccer League, currently plays home games at Hofstra University’s James M. Shuart Stadium.

Officials with the Empire State Development Corporation did not respond to questions about a timeline for a decision or demands for new requests for proposals that include housing.

“We are re-engaging respondents in order to obtain the best possible deal for the state,” the agency said Friday in a statement.

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